A Whimsical Look at the Comical War That Is Black Friday Sales
Every year, the day after Thanksgiving is celebrated as the "official American shopping holiday" also termed Black Friday. This day marks the beginning of an unending war in which the retail companies try to sell as many products as possible by offering early bird specials and Doorbuster sales. The turkey-stuffed shoppers, on the other hand, descend on stores all over the country to grab the bargain of the year. Some retail companies manage to achieve their Black Friday sales targets while others fail to do so, the same way some lucky shoppers manage to buy all the items on their shopping wish list, while others come home empty handed. This war continues until the end of the day and it is only then the troops of this war can find out whether they were losers or winners. (Article continues below)
Black Friday By the Numbers
It is on this day that most of the retail stores and online business concerns try to move out of the red and into the black on their profit ledgers. The past sales figures of many retail stores in USA and UK show how deep the insanity goes.
Let us have a look at some key findings, past statistics, and future trends about Black Friday so you can be better prepared for this war.
Black Friday Spending in the US
Sales (millions of USD)
* Forecasted Sales for the Year 2016
These statistics clearly show that the total consumer spending on Black Friday (2010) was $51,020 million, whereas it reached an astonishing figure of $70,492 million in the year 2015. Black Friday spendings have increased 38.1% from 2010 to 2015. The experts predict that this spending behavior will continue in the coming years and they predict that these spendings can touch the $77,316 figure this year which will be an 9.6% increase from the last year.
These findings, past statistics, and future trends are not any different in the UK market. In 2014 consumer spending on Black Friday in the UK was 1,300 million GBP, whereas they were 3,300 million GBP in 2015, which is an astonishing 153.8% increase, which clearly shows that more and more people are participating in this war of sales. The forecasted sales for the year 2016 are 5,000 million GBP - an increase of almost 51.5% from the last year.
These numbers are a clear indication that people in US and UK are taking more interest and spending more on this annual retail shopping bonanza.
The Value of $77 billion
By no means, the projected sales volume of $77 billion for the coming Black Friday season, can be overlooked, as this important day of the year has a great impact on the US economy. Millions of bargain hunters pass through checkouts carrying heavily discounted products pumping billions of dollars into the US economy. The projected sales volume of $77 billion for the year 2016 is more than the GDP of Luxembourg, Zimbabwe, Albania, Jamaica, Estonia and many other countries of the world. This clearly shows how much this day alone contributes to the US economy. With this much money, 7 million pets can be rescued from shelters and fed for more than 10 years. You can even build your own army and buy a lot of weaponry with this money.
Considering the high poverty rate, troubling unemployment rate, and sluggish economic growth, this annual retail shopping bonanza is more than a blessing for the US economy.
The Historical Perspective
For many bargain hunters, Black Friday is nothing more than the biggest shopping day of the year and the official kick-off to the Christmas season, but the historical perspective suggests that this day has little to do with the holiday shopping phenomenon and a lot to do with disgruntled traffic police.
It was in 1950's that the police officers in Philadelphia first used this term to describe a chaotic day after Thanksgiving as "Black Friday". It is reported that on that day, those police officers encountered increased traffic jams and a large volume of pedestrian traffic on the roads in anticipation of the big Navy-Army football game. For many police officers, taxi drivers, bus drivers, and motorists that Friday became a nightmare for them as it became a challenge to control and navigate the shopping crowd; therefore they referred it to as a bleak or rather black Friday.
In late 1980's, the term "Black Friday" was once again coined, but this time it was used by some retailers to indicate a day that they were finally able to turn their profits for the year from red to black i.e. from loss to profit. Retailers soon realized that they can pull big crowds by offering huge discounts, and this philosophy laid down the foundation of Black Friday in the US.
In the United Kingdom, the term Black Friday was used to describe a day before Christmas and referred to the amount of people drinking alcohol. It was not until 2013 when Walmart subsidiary ASDA introduced this massive one-day shopping bonanza in the UK market. In the last two years, it has only gained popularity in the UK and the experts are predicting that if the trend continues, we may witness the same chaotic scenes on Britain's highways, streets, and supermarkets that we have been witnessing in the US on Black Friday.
The Troops on Black Friday
The story of Black Friday is incomplete without highlighting the major players or the troops participating in this battlefield. In 2015, females between the age of 35 and 45 were the most likely groups to have been bargain-hunting; they accounted for 59% of the Black Friday 2015 sales, followed by males aged 35-45 who accounted for 41% of the sales. For the first time, it was noticed that in Black Friday 2015 tablet shoppers outsmarted desktop shoppers in terms of total spendings. These were some of the sought after products in 2015:
- Super Smash Bros for the Wii U
- Beats by Dre
- Apple iPhone & iPad
- Jordan shoes
The Shifting Trends
The use of smartphones and smart devices has greatly impacted the way people used to shop on Black Friday. In 2015, more people shopped online (51%) using their smartphones and smart devices than in stores (49%) and the foot traffic fell by almost 2%. The majority of the bargain hunters used their mobile phones (57%) for online shopping rather than desktops. This shifting trend is making Cyber Monday more popular than Black Friday, and shoppers have all the good reasons to justify their choice. They are able to find a better variety online, they can do price comparisons, they do not have to wait in lines, and they can easily search and buy their favorite bargains anytime they want.
The Winners on Black Friday
Black Friday shopping craze is much different than it used to be a few years back, thanks to much improved and convenient online retail landscape. Let us have a look at some of the players who made it to the victory stands on Black Friday 2015.
Champions among Retailers
- Amazon - the e-commerce giant dominated Black Friday with over 35% online sales
- Apple - Apple's iPads and iPhones helped it enjoy the strongest Black Friday sales in its entire history
- REI - although this outdoor retail giant remained closed, it was able to enjoy 26% increase in the online traffic
In order to stock new inventories, run the store, manage distributions and handle the customers, retailers fill between 700,000 to 750,000 seasonal positions during this annual retail shopping bonanza. These seasonal workers earn more money and can be regarded as winners.
Shoppers, in General, are the Real Winners
Extended shopping season, online shopping options, and intense competition among the retailer giants means that the consumers are now able to find good bargains before, during, and after the Black Friday. Shoppers, in general, are always the real winners in this shopping war.
The Losers of Black Friday
A lot of brick and mortar retail stores experienced a decline in foot traffic as more consumers opted to shop online; this greatly impacted the physical shopping in general.
A few UK retailers lost the fight
It was in 2015 that ASDA - the retailer that introduced this shopping phenomenon in the UK market, gave up. Some other retail stores like John Lewis, Argos, Oasis, and Primark showed lesser zeal and participation in Black Friday 2015 or canceled the participation altogether. Some online retailers faced a lot of difficulties managing their sites smoothly. John Lewis, for example, reported £ 75,000 in lost sales for one minute of website downtime.
Injuries & Deaths
The first rule of winning this battle is to stay alive; unfortunately, 7 people have lost their lives while shopping for discounted items on Black Friday and 98 people were injured since 2006. People use different means to grab the best deal of their life, one woman used a pepper-spray to lock down her discounted Xbox.
Black Friday in Social Media
Over the last few years, social media has greatly impacted Black Friday sales and the trend is expected to become a major force in attracting people and driving more sales. Retailers use social media for engaging and connecting with consumers, updating consumers about their products, offering exclusive deals and discounts, and acquiring user-generated content. Let us have a look at some of the winners in this field:
During the first ten days of October 2015, 620,000 posts mentioned Black Friday. This accounts for an increase of almost 21% from the last year. REI used the tagline #OptOutside for refusing to participate in Black Friday; this brought them 10 x more conversations. Best Buy also enjoyed a huge presence on Twitter and gained 164,000 mentions, which is 86% higher than the last year. TVs, smartphones, smart devices, Xbox, electronic gadgets, and clothing are some of the hottest products mentioned on Twitter on Black Friday.
Retailers also rely heavily on Instagram to get in touch with their potential consumers and lock down their early sales. Shoppers also take advantage of this wonderful social media platform to share their success stories or inform friends and family members about a particular bargain. Victoria's Secret enjoyed 239,666 likes while Starbucks came second with 205,252 Likes in Black Friday 2015.
Google also played a significant role in helping people find the best deal on the net. This is quite evident in numbers as Google witnessed that search volume for Black Friday peaked between 15-21 November.
Prime Day vs Black Friday
The e-commerce giant Amazon dominated the Black Friday sales in 2015 capturing almost 35% of the total sales volume. After enjoying huge success in the annual Black Friday sales, Amazon wanted a day of its own - the Prime Day. Initially, only the Prime members are offered the opportunity to take advantage of this one-day annual sale event which Amazon claims will outdo all the bargains that Black Friday offers. You can also become a Prime member by spending $99/year and participate in Prime Day to enjoy unlimited and continuous deals of the year.
China's Singles' Day vs Black Friday
China started celebrating Singles' Day almost two decades ago in order to offer lucrative online bargains to the singles living in the country. This day is considered as the world's biggest online shopping day and China's e-commerce giants such as Alibaba offers deep discounts on items as varied as clothes and cars. It is expected that Alibaba is going to generate $20 billion in sales on the coming Single's Day.
Black Friday Preparations for Retailers
In order to stay ahead of the game and make sure to be in the black side as much as possible on this Black Friday, here is what the retailers in the US and the UK need to do:
Decide early whether you want to become a part of the biggest shopping day of the year. This day may surprise you with traffic surges, therefore you need to be mentally prepared and have a solid sales strategy to face the music. Stocking inventory, hiring a seasonal workforce, marketing your products, using social media to attract more customers, building hype around your sales, decorating your website and your brick and mortar store accordingly, and creating contingency plans should be on top of your to-do list in order to win this battle.
Black Friday Preparations for Shoppers
Black Friday shopping can be overwhelming both for the retailers as well as the shoppers. Without a solid shopping strategy in place, you can easily miss out those huge bargains. Whether you are thinking about using your mobile to do your Black Friday shopping or you intend to do it in-store, you need to draft your game plan first. Make sure to prepare a shopping wish list keeping your budget in mind. Avoid impulsive buying and try to stick to your budget. In order to find the best deals, get social with your friends and online stores.
Over the past few years, Black Friday battle has shifted from brick and mortar stores to a battle online. The rules of the battle have also changed; instead of the shopper doing all the fighting to grab the hottest deal, the retailers have to fight on all fronts to attract as many shoppers as possible. You need new weapons like stronger planning, innovative marketing and of course great deals to win the hearts and minds of shopper and ultimately win this battle.
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